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EXTENSIONS: traditional or contemporary?

Whether you want a new addition to be sympathetic to the original property, or stand out with a contrasting modern style, architect Julian Owen offers his advice on how to get the design and planning stage right
JIM STEPHENSON

After some fairly bad press in the second half of the 20th century, contemporary extensions have enjoyed a renaissance over the past several decades, becoming more popular with homeowners and planners alike. However, the recent appointment of philosopher Sir Roger Scruton as the chair of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is a clear declaration of support by the UK government for his oftenstated belief that only traditional or classical architecture is worth building. The initiative is intended to promote good design and Sir Roger is in no doubt that the only way to achieve it is by looking to the past. So if you are intending to add an extension to your home, is this the right design solution or is it better to choose a style that reflects 21stcentury innovations?

The answer to this question is that neither is better – because truly beautiful architecture transcends style, and this is just as true now as it was 100 or 1,000 years ago. Countless dreadful buildings have been built throughout history, but the advantage very old properties have over the new is that the ugly ones have long been demolished, leaving only the very best examples for us to admire.

The language of an aesthetic style is made up of all the features that help to identify it. In the same way that clear and consistent writing makes a good read, a building that has a well-considered architectural language of form, materials and construction details will have elegance.

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About Build It

Build It is Britain’s longest running self build magazine. Each issue is packed full of inspirational and informative readers’ homes, as well as expert advice on issues from budgets and planning to project management and design. This month: - Installing underfloor heating - Flooring cost guide - New routes to self build - What are building surveys?